Today is the official day for raising awareness around one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time: human trafficking. The United Nations has marked July 30th as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. This day aims to educate people about human trafficking, today’s equivalent of the slave trade that was abolished more than a century ago.
Since it’s the inaugural year of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, you can join the U.N. and actively engage in their Blue Heart social media campaign. Using the hashtag #igivehope and the campaign’s Facebook and Twitter pages, you can share photos of yourself forming a heart with two hands. Let everyone know you are taking a stand by changing your profile picture. You can find campaign logos in different languages here.
Slavery truly is a global scourge, requiring a global response. Millions of men, women, and children are victims of human trafficking worldwide. Learn where slavery is worst through the FTS Trafficking and Slavery Fact Sheet.
Right now, FTS works in six hot spot countries where more than half of the world’s slaves live: India, Nepal, Ghana, Congo, Haiti and Brazil.
India has the largest concentration of modern-day slaves with 14 million slaves. Most are victims of debt bondage, where loans illegally enslave laborers in farms, brick kilns, quarries, and embroidery factories.
In Nepal, thousands are trafficked into domestic servitude as maids, into circuses as performers, and sex slavery. Other thousands are trafficked in Congo, Haiti, Ghana, and Brazil to work in the fishing industry, mines, and plantations. FTS works hand in hand with partner organizations in these six countries to help people overcome the root causes that make them vulnerable prey for traffickers.
A world without slavery: it’s a goal that can be reached. In 2013, FTS freed 3,127 people from slavery and educated 18, 465 villagers to protect their families from traffickers. But governments, businesses, consumers, international organizations and people like you still need to join forces to expand the work of eradicating human trafficking.
Free the Slaves is spreading the word about global trafficking on global TV and radio. FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg was a guest on the most recent edition of “On the Line,” broadcast worldwide by the Voice of America.
Even though slavery was abolished, it still exists because victims of poverty, discrimination and corruption remain vulnerable and are preyed upon by traffickers, Maurice explained. “The fact that it’s illegal, doesn’t mean that it stopped existing,” he said.
Slavery looks different today, in comparison to how it looked hundreds of years ago. “Slavery was a terrible part of all of our histories and something that we must not forget, but it’s really until now that the world is waking up to the fact that modern-day slavery exists,” said Joanna Ewart-James, campaign team manager of Walk Free in London, another guest on the program.
In the United States, sex trafficking is one of the most talked about forms of modern slavery. But worldwide, sex slaves constitute a fifth of modern-day slaves. The other 80 percent are enslaved in other forms of forced work where there is intensive manual labor.
“Wherever you need a lot of hands and brute force, there’s where you are going to find slavery,” Maurice explained. “In fact, that’s why it’s often under the noses of people and not really seen because it seems to be part of the workforce. Many of the people that you see working in these industries are in fact in the state of slavery.”
What does it mean to be in “the state of slavery” today? If slavery is under our noses, what can we do to see it and stop it?
For those answers, watch the entire show. It’s a quick and easy way to learn what slavery looks like today, and what we can do to end it within our lifetime.
This week may bring key votes in Congress responding to the increase in child refugees entering the United States from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Some of these children are fleeing widespread slavery in their home countries. But one of the policy revisions being debated in Washington would repeal protection for child slaves under American law.
Free the Slaves has joined 90 religious, academic and human rights leaders urging Congress and the Obama administration to safeguard runaway slaves by maintaining the procedures established in 2008 for child refugees under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).
A letter delivered to key House and Senate committee leaders explains that “amending the TVPRA is not the solution” and notes that discarding portions of America’s groundbreaking anti-trafficking law would be “jeopardizing the lives of children seeking safety in the United States.”
Read the full letter to Congress here.
“Instead of abiding by our international obligations and affording these children proper screening for trafficking and persecution, as well as the opportunity to receive fair and full consideration of their legal claims before an immigration judge, members of Congress appear to propose quickly removing them without access to legal counsel. Removals would follow cursory screenings that have already proven entirely inadequate to identify genuine refugee and trafficking claims among Mexican children.”
The joint letter was authored by the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a coalition of leading anti-slavery organizations, including FTS.
“We are encouraged that Congress is considering additional funding to both address the conditions of the children as well as provide more rapid consideration of the status of these children and their safe repatriation,” the letter concludes. “These efforts appear to be a better approach than weakening the protections these children deserve by changing the TVPRA.”
If you would like to be heard on protecting child slavery victims, now is the time. You can find the contact information for your U.S. Senators at senate.gov and House member at house.gov. Just type in your zip code in the upper right of the webpages. Then give your elected representatives a call or send them an email to tell them to protect child trafficking victims by protecting the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.
Editor’s Note: Many FTS contributors are embracing The Power of 12 by scheduling automatic monthly donations. This form of support is especially valuable since it helps us know that a regular level of funding is coming, avoiding the risks of boom-and-bust cycles in our ability to maintain a steady fight against slavery throughout the year. We asked one of our key monthly donors, filmmaker Amna Al Nowais, why she has chosen to become an ongoing contributor to FTS.
How did you learn that slavery still exists? How did you feel at that very moment?
I had some awareness that slavery still existed, but not that there were more people in slavery today—and treated worse—than during the time that it was actually legal. I first learned this when I saw Lisa Kristine’s TED talk. I felt sickened and overcome with emotions that prompted an urgency to act.
How did those feelings turn to action and a donation to Free the Slaves?
The suffering of an individual not only being stripped of their bodily freedom but also subdued, starved and psychologically altered day after endless day is unimaginable. Making a donation felt like a very natural next step after seeing and hearing what I just had, especially because of how easy it is to do so: on the spot, securely and within a few keystrokes on a laptop.
What do you say when you tell others that slavery still exists?
Slavery is not only still real, it is also a multibillion dollar business, enslaving up to an estimated 30 million people. It seeps into our day-to-day and can be in the supply chain that produces anything from our raw materials to the food on our plates. The numbers seem overwhelming, but we cannot forget that the illegality of slavery makes any practice of it a government matter; and that as consumers we have real leverage to eradicate it. Breakthroughs are a result of dominoes—small and consistent steps.
What do you say to others to inspire them to contribute to Free the Slaves?
As individuals we might feel overwhelmed by the spectrum of eradicating slavery, but Free the Slaves is already freeing thousands of people, as well as preventing further enslavement through region-specific and tried-and-tested methods that are only becoming better and better. All that is left for us as individuals who want to help is to support it. A donation goes a very long way and a regular donation makes it even more sustainable.
Why do you choose to donate to Free the Slaves when there are many other causes to support and organizations fighting slavery?
Over 80 percent of Free the Slaves funds go to programs and services. They are connected to local partner organizations everywhere they work and base every action they take on well thought-out calculations—from prevention to post-rescue. This maximizes their resources and reach and, therefore, most importantly, their sustained effectiveness.
It’s hard for consumers to know which of the products we buy are tainted by slavery. But that could change, if you want it to.
U.S Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) have introduced the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2014 (H.R. 4842). The bipartisan bill requires major U.S. companies to publicly disclose measures they are taking to prevent human trafficking, slavery and child labor in their supply chains.
Now it’s your turn to help. Get your members of Congress to cosponsor this groundbreaking anti-trafficking legislation. Become part of the Business Transparency Campaign by signing their online petition. It’s run by our colleagues at Walk Free.
“Enactment of supply chain transparency legislation will provide consumers with information about companies that are – and are not – taking substantial steps to address slavery. It will also help investors better understand the reputational and other risks of investing in particular companies,” according to the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, a coalition of leading anti-trafficking organizations, including FTS.
If the bill is passed, every consumer will have an opportunity to make educated decisions when shopping.